The Muscle Building,Fat Burning, High Energy, Balanced Diet: Mmm Mmm Good
In my opinion proper nutrition is the most important part of living a healthy lifestyle. Although exercise is important- you cannot outwork a bad diet: CLICK HERE to see a few examples on MensHealth.com. I have so many friends, colleagues, and training partners who put in the hard work at the gym but don’t see the results they want because of their habits in kitchen (or the drive through window in many cases). But trust me, my “inner fat kid” understands…
When I was growing up, good food meant one thing…it was tasty and usually loaded with fat and sugar. But like most people, this “good food” meant so much more to me than taste and feeling full. It was my drug, my escape, and my safety blanket. No matter who picked on me at school, or how bad my report card was- 5 slices of pizza and a sleeve Oreos always delivered. My love for “good food” was emotionally deep seeded.
By the time I was 17, I was 5’8” and I weighed 230 not-so-lean pounds. To make matters worse, I had recently discovered a new companion that gave me the same wonderful escape as food- alcohol. In high school I was the guy who thought it was cool to get completely wasted and act like a fool. Why not? No one could hold me responsible for my actions- I was drunk. In addition to my killer physique- this ridiculous id-driven mentality lead to more embarrassing and destructive behavior than I care to admit.
This lifestyle culminated in my senior year, when I got so drunk before homecoming that I couldn’t even stand. When it was time to leave for the dance, my friends and little brother (a freshman at the time) carried my seemingly lifeless body to my car and left me. Needless to say, my date (a friend who I had a big crush on) was furious. That night I looked at myself in the mirror with disgust for what I had allowed myself to become. At that moment I decided that I was done! I was done hiding behind food and alcohol- pretending it made me happy. I was done setting a bad example- allowing my little brothers to think this was an acceptable and rewarding way to live. Most of all, I was done being lazy- wishing my life were different and doing nothing about it.
Among the many changes I decided to make in my life- I was bound and determined to lose weight and get in shape. I quit drinking entirely and started a low fat high protein diet which had absolutely no regard for taste (or nutrition for that matter). Every day I would eat six hardboiled egg whites, a plain can of tuna, 1-2 protein shakes mixed in water, a ½ cup of plain oatmeal, an apple, and a banana. I ate this way to prove to myself that I was willing to do whatever it took to lose weight- it made me feel powerful. In retrospect, I was also punishing myself. In my mind I had my time to enjoy “good food” and now it was time to eat “healthy food”. I was able to lose 60 lbs in one year. However, this unbalanced diet left me feeling unsatisfied and lead to spouts of binge eating and weight fluctuations.
I ate in this way until a year ago today, when my girlfriend bought me a copy of Laird Hamilton’s book, Force of Nature for Valentine’s Day. Laird completely changed my perspective on eating, training, and living. He showed me what it meant to eat well and introduced me to a simple yet often forgotten concept- balance. Like the journey of the Buddha, I have found that happiness does not lie within the extremes, but in a balanced approach which considers my needs as a whole- both my “inner fat kid” and my “inner athlete”.
Today, my love for food is so much deeper and richer- I truly believe that it is a pillar of the human experience. The food I eat satisfies me in so many ways: It fuels my training, it is a creative outlet & ever-developing skill, it is a way to connect with my friends and family, and it tastes great. This brings me to the first dimension of my diet today…
1. Taste Matters:
Taste is incredibly important- second only to nutrition. However, I have found that one does not need to be sacrificed for the other. The world offers so many delicious and unusual flavors and there are infinite ways to combine and prepare them. Rather than taking the lazy way out (grease, sugar, salt) I challenge you to employ these nutritional principles without sacrificing taste. Take some of your favorite foods and think about how some creative substitutions can give you the best of both worlds.
2. Drink Water, & Then Drink Some More:
The human body is 60-70% water. Water is the essence of life on Earth and staying hydrated is essential to proper nutrition. I recommend drinking a gallon or more of water per day. To make this easier on myself I have a large water bottle (32 oz) & I keep it filled. Every time I get up to go to the bathroom (which will be a lot if you’re drinking this much) I check to see if I need more water. If I’m almost out, then I gulp the rest, take my bottle with me, and fill it back up. Drinking this much water will make you feel more energized throughout the day and during your workouts.
3. Eat Small Meals Every 3-4 Hours:
Eating small meals throughout the day is a cornerstone for developing a fast metabolism and turning your body into a fat burning furnace. Small consistent (within 100-150 calories of each other) meals allow your body to maintain stable blood sugar levels- so you feel great after eating vs. the lethargic malaise following a big meal (think sleepy post meal). The key to success for this rule is planning ahead- because you don’t want to find yourself at the 4 hour mark without a meal. Here are some tips to setting yourself up for success:
-Use the tools of the trade: these include a big lunch box (mine looks like a bowling bag), sandwich baggies, a 32oz water bottle, a protein shaker, & a lot of Tupper wear (different sizes).
-The Market is Your Friend: Go the grocery store once a week & stock you’re your kitchen with the foods listed below.
-Have Go To-Friendly foods: Quick snacks that can be grabbed on the run are great. My kitchen is always filled with almonds, low fat string cheese, fruits, and veggies. So when I need to I can grab a fist full of carrots and a string cheese on my way out the door.
-Cook in Advance: One day a week (For me it’s every Sunday) I make all the necessary preparations with my food so I am geared up for the week. This usually includes grilling chicken & steaks, roasting & sautéing veggies, & mixing salads. Anything that can be done in advance should be. In the mornings all I need to do is throw my fruit & Tupper wear into my lunch box, mix up a breakfast smoothie & I am good to go!
4. Eat Veggies or Low Glycemic-Fruits with Every Meal:
The vast majority of your carbohydrates should come from veggies & lower-glycemic fruits. Every time you eat, you should have 1—2 servings of these low calorie, high fiber, and nutrient rich foods:
-Veggies: Spinach, Brussel Sprouts, Tomatoes, Parsnips, Asparagus, Red Onions, Mushrooms, Peppers, Carrots, Cauliflower, Broccoli, Beats, Radishes, Leeks, Cucumbers
-Low Glycemic Fruits: Oranges, Tangerines, Clementines, Peaches, Apples, Pears, Kiwi, Grapes, Plums, Cherries & Most Berries (Blueberries, Strawberries, Blackberries, etc.)
5. Eat Lean Protein with Every Meal:
Eating high quality protein on a consistent basis is necessary for recovering from workout and building lean muscle. Protein also takes longer to digest, so it keeps you feeling fuller longer.
-Protein: Eggs, Chicken, Fish, Lean Beef, Low fat Dairy (cottage cheese, yogurt, & low fat string cheese), Beans (black beans, chick peas, & kidney beans), Bison, Turkey, and Whey.
6. Eat Essential Fat 2-3 Times per Day:
Eating healthy sources of fat will actually keep your body from storing it. It will also fuel your workouts, keep your joints lubricated, & keep you feeling more satisfied.
-Healthy Fat Sources: Flax Seed Meal, Fish Oil, Almonds, Walnuts, Natural Peanut Butter, Avocado, Hummus (great for dipping raw veggies), Olives, Olive Oil, and even Animal Sources in moderation- such as Lean Beef, Egg Yolks, and Low Fat Dairy.
7. Eat Whole Grains & High Glycemic Carbohydrates with Breakfast & Post Workout:
Consume grains and high glycemic fruit carbohydrates when your body needs them the most - breakfast & post workout. These are the times when your blood sugar is low and elevating it will allow for proper recovery. Otherwise, eating these foods will only cause spikes in your blood sugar- leaving you feeling sluggish and storing fat.
-Grains: Steal cut Oatmeal, 100% Whole Grain Bread, Quinoa, Barley, and Whole Wheat Pasta.
-High Glycemic Carbs: Banana, Mango, Dried Fruit (Raisins, Apricots, Craisins, and Apricots), Sports Drinks (I use G2 Gatorade), 100%Natural Fruit Juices
8. Post Workout:
Immediately after a hard workout, you body needs easily digestible protein and simple sugars. This will replenish your body with needed glycogen & protein so it can recover & build lean muscle. I recommend 1/2 a bottle of G2 Gatorade & a scoop of whey protein.
CLICK HERE for a Great Article on Post Training Recovery from MMATraining.com. These principles apply to all athletes who put their bodies through the rigors of training.
At one point humans were able to get everything we needed from natural sources. For the most part, this is no longer the case. That is where supplements come into play. I use the following to supplement my diet. Click on any of them to learn more:
-Nutritional Supplements: Whey Protein, Fish Oil (Brain Food- A major contributor to the evolution of modern humans), Glutamine (Amino Acid most responsible for Muscle Recovery), Creatine Monohydrate (5g a day- equivalent to a steak), 1-A Day Multivitamin, Vitamin D3 (for those long, grey, Cleveland winters), Glucosamine Chondroitin (Joint Supplement), BioGreens (Vegetable Supplement).
10. Listen to Your Body:
Cravings should be listened to. They are your body’s way of telling you need something. If you are having a craving for a burger- then have some steak, some chicken breast, or a turkey burger. If you want sweets- have some fruit. If you are dying for junk food, hold on and stay strong, because cheat day is coming.
11. Cheat Days:
Life happens and we all have our own “inner fat kid” to one degree or another. I will usually pick one day per week when I will go outside of my normal diet and enjoy myself. This is usually a day when there is some sort of event such as an office party, dinner at my parents, or plans with friends. If there isn’t an event, I will usually have one thing that I’ve been craving- pizza, a fast food burger, a pint of Ben & Jerry’s, or dinner out with my girlfriend. As long as you’re strict with your eating and your training- this one cheat a week won’t make a dent in your progress. As time goes on these cheats will be less important and may even disgust you. You’ll be surprised what a Big Mac tastes like once you’re used to eating real food.
So Then, What Do I Eat? Here is my typical training day:
6:00 AM (Post-Conditioning): 1 Scoop Whey Protein with ½ a 12 OZ bottle of G2 Gatorade
7:00 AM Drive into work: My favorite kick-start breakfast…
The Ultimate Smoothie: Delicious, easily digested, nutrient filled, & portable
1c Water, Splash of natural red grape juice, ½ of a Frozen Banana, ½ c frozen strawberries, ¼ c frozen blueberries, 1 tbsp natural peanut butter, 1 scoop vanilla whey protein, 1 scoop Creatine (5g), 3 teaspoons Bio Greens, & 1 tablespoon of ground flax seed meal, and 5g Glutamine
9AM: 3/4c Low Fat Dairy (1% Cottage Cheese or Organic Yogurt) with Almonds & Grapes
12PM: Meat (Chicken Breast or Steak) and Veggies (Spinach, Brussel Sprouts, or a Mixed Greens Salad) and ½ an Avocado
2PM: Hummus with Veggies (Carrots or Peppers) & a Whey Protein Shake with water
4 PM: Fruit (Apple or Orange) & Low Fat String Cheese
7 PM (Pre-Training): Fruit & Natural Peanut Butter or Almonds
9:30 (Post-Training): 1 Scoop Whey Protein with ½ a 12 OZ bottle of G2 Gatorade
I will continue to post recipes and nutritional tips on 9-5Athlete & Twitter. Until next time live well and remember the formula: